Potential Impact of Septic Ban in Rural Counties Analyzed

Eastern Shore State legislators Senator E.J. Pipkin and Delegate Michael Smigiel have launched a website in response to Governor Martin O’Malley’s support of the proposed ban on septics. Entitled, “The War on Rural Maryland”  the site discusses how limiting or banning development on septic systems disproportionately strips local officials in rural counties of land use control.  Tim Wheeler, author of the Baltimore Sun’s B’More Green” blog, analysis how counties throughout Maryland would be impacted by this legislation if it were to pass.

According to data supplied by the Maryland Department of Planning, the four counties with the highest number of homes on septic are: Anne Arundel, with 43,733; followed by Baltimore County, with 43,733; followed by Baltimore County, with 37,772; Carroll, with 31,061 and Harford, with 28,070.

In a way, that’s not terribly surprising, since the metro areas are where the most people are, and there are portions of every county in the state not served by public water or sewer.

Of course, if you look at which counties have the highest percentage of homes on septic, it is mostly – but not exclusively – rural. Calvert County is tops, with a whopping 84 percent, according to state planning data, followed by St. Mary’s County, with 70 percent, and then the Eastern Shore counties of Caroline and Wicomico (both 68 percent), Cecil (61 percent) and Carroll (59 percent).   But in some rural counties, like Allegany, Washington, Kent, Talbot and Worcester, homes with septic are in the minority.  Not such a clear divide.

Of course, the bills in Annapolis are about limiting or changing the use of septics in future growth.  So where are the most homes on septic likely to be built in years to come?   Based on current zoning and planned sewer service, Carroll and Frederick are expected to add the most – 10,000 or more homes on septics each – by 2035, state planners project.   Next, they foresee 5,000 to 10,000 septic-served homes each going up in Washington, Harford, Cecil, Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Prince George’s, Charles and St. Mary’s.

Somewhere between 1,500 and 5,000 new homes on septic are forecast for each of these counties – Garrett, Howard, Baltimore, Calvert, Queen Anne’s, Caroline, Wicomico and Worcester.  Lastly, Allegany, Kent, Talbot, Dorchester and Somerset counties – and almost entirely sewered Baltimore city – are expected to add the fewest septic systems, somewhere between none and 1,500 each over the next 25 years.

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